YAK go for broke and create surely one of the albums of the year.
With their sophomore album, coming in the wake of their 2016 debut Alas Salvation, YAK prove themselves to be an incredibly talented and singular voice in the rock scene. Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is not just a great rock album, it is a great album, period. Moving between styles and moods with panache and verve, the band show themselves to be adept at whatever musical stylings they turn to. Tracks run the gamut from short and sweet punk tunes that call to mind The Clash and The Stooges (“Blinded By The Lies”), to head-smashing rock ("Pay Off Vs The Struggle"), to sleazy lounge tracks that engender comparison Fat White Family (“Encore”), and drawn out epics that could be cuts from a Leonard Cohen album (“This House Has No Living Room”).
Written, primarily, by vocalist Oliver Burslem
, whilst living out of his car, and backpacking around various countries crashing on couches and using friends’ connections to score free flights, the album could easily have suffered from an identity disorder. Running such a gamut of styles as it does, it would be easy for the album to sound haphazard, confused, and random. Instead, the whole thing is anchored by a singular writing voice of Burslem. The vocals throughout are hoarse and raw, full of anger and momentum: phrases are delivered wide open with vowels tossed off at the end of words, out of the corner of Burslem’s mouth. You can practically hear the smirking and scowling as he sings.
What is particularly wonderful about the album, however, is the lack of fear or holding back demonstrated by the trio. It’s an album that goes for broke, both feet slammed down on the accelerator, with no desire to tone anything down or be ashamed of anything. Of course, there is nothing to be ashamed of, but how many bands would be willing to open a track as epically as “Words Fail Me” does, sounding almost like a dramatic reveal in an opera? How many bands would, this early in their career, present a track like “White Male Carnivore,” which drones and hums along with a constant, ceaselessly repetitive instrumentation, calling to mind the assured output of David Cronenberg’s Wife, Nick Cave, and Grinderman? How many bands would close out such a brilliantly off-the-rails rock album with an eight-and-a-half-minute-long epic of a song (“This House Has No Living Room”) that trundles slowly along off the back of tons of reverb and organ and Cohen-esque murmurings, shuddering it’s way to a finish as the reverberated notes stretch out longer and longer? YAK. It’s the commitment that separates them, it’s the sheer balls of the band that sets them out as one of the best currently recording and performing (their live shows themselves the stuff of legends). There seems to be no fear. There seems to be no hesitation.
While the band’s recent signing by major label Virgin EMI seems to be a source of amusement and confusion for the band – with Burslem suggesting, tongue in cheek, that they might just be a “tax write off” – it’s hopeful that it might just mean that we’ll be hearing from YAK for quite a while yet. YAK just might be the future of rock music, certainly in Britain.
'Pursuit of Momentary Happiness' is out on Feb 8th via Third Man Records. For more GigList album reviews see here